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He lost $200,000 when FTX imploded last year. He's still waiting to get it back

A jury took less than five hours to convict former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried of fraud and money laundering.
Michael M. Santiago
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A jury took less than five hours to convict former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried of fraud and money laundering.

Last November, Jake Thacker discovered more than $200,000 of his crypto and cash had gone missing. He'd been counting on it to pay off debts, and to pay taxes on stock he'd sold.

One year later, Thacker's money is still nowhere to be found.

Thacker was caught up in the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, unable to withdraw what he had stored on the site.

"I went in, looked at where some of my account balances were, it didn't seem to be right," Thacker told NPR at the time. "Everything was frozen, there were all kinds of error issues. I was definitely in freak-out mode."

Before the company filed for bankruptcy, he sent e-mails, made phone calls, and consulted a lawyer. Concern gave way to panic, and then resignation.

"I mean, it irrevocably changed my life," Thacker now says.

Earlier this month, a New York City jury convicted FTX's founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, of fraud and money laundering.

The former crypto mogul, who spent billions of dollars of FTX customer money on high-end real estate and speculative investments, could spend the rest of his life in prison after he's sentenced early next year.

But to Thacker, that's cold comfort.

Like thousands of Bankman-Fried's victims, he has spent the last year trying to recover what he had on FTX. It hasn't been easy. Or fruitful.

Bankruptcy proceedings continue in Delaware, and Thacker has tried to follow them from Portland, Oregon, where he lives.

But it's hard to get a handle on what the high-paid lawyers are haggling over, and Thacker fears that the longer this process drags on, the less he will get back.

"We're just, kind of, in the passenger seat, waiting to hear," he says. "We can file a claim, but who knows when they'll get to it, and who knows what the pot will be when they do get to it."

Job loss, bankruptcy and loneliness

FTX's implosion marked the start of an agonizing period for Thacker. A few weeks later, he lost his job at a tech company and filed for bankruptcy.

"I had no way to pay for anything," he says. "So, that was really kind of the only recourse that I had."

Thacker says his personal relationships have suffered. Many of his friends couldn't understand what he was going through.

Customer claims were due in September. According to Jared Ellias, a professor of bankruptcy law at Harvard University, the FTX debtors are expected to update the court on where things stand next month.

"They've been looking to see what are all the assets they have," he says. "And they also have been looking to see, of the assets they have, you know, what can they turn into green dollars."

So far, they have recovered more than $7 billion, which Ellias says is "pretty good" given the vastness of Bankman-Fried's crypto empire and its spotty recordkeeping.

Thacker says he's gotten no official communication about where his claim stands, and he is no longer following the process as closely as he did at the beginning.

"I check in from time to time, and poke around here and there, but it's not really a healthy preoccupation for me," he says. "It's just more stress and anxiety."

Hope after a guilty verdict

Thacker paid attention to Bankman-Fried's monthlong trial, though. He felt surprised — and satisfied — after the jury delivered its guilty verdict.

"I thought to myself, 'Wow, the justice system actually did work in this instance,'" he says. "And you know, the guilty parties got their comeuppance."

Three of Bankman-Fried's co-conspirators — deputies at FTX and its sister trading firm, Alameda Research — pleaded guilty to separate criminal charges. They had testified against him as cooperating witnesses.

The trial's outcome was "a big win," Thacker says. But for him and other FTX customers who lost billions of dollars in total, it does nothing to make them whole. Their money is still missing.

"At the end of the day, I'm hopeful I will survive all of this, and come out better for it on the back end," he says.

Thacker has a new job, at another tech startup. He's offloaded the crypto assets he had on other exchanges, including Binance, Coinbase and Kraken. He wants to move on, but he's still waiting.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.